Arthur H. Nelson
FOUNDER May 21, 1923 – November 28, 2015
Arthur H. Nelson was a prominent Boston-area entrepreneur who founded more than a dozen companies in technology, real estate, international management and education. Born in Lawrence, Kansas in 1923, Nelson graduated from the University of Kansas in 1943 with a degree in physics. He then was recruited by MIT to join the war effort at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory developing high frequency radar and the first AWACS radar planes and later continued his work there as an Ensign in the Navy. At the “Rad Lab” Nelson saw how technology and innovation overcame seemingly impossible obstacles — an experience that provided the entrepreneurial driving force behind his career.
After graduating with a law degree from Harvard University and passing the bar in Massachusetts, Nelson founded three Cambridge-based companies during the 1950s and ’60s: General Electronic Laboratories (GEL), Associates for International Research (AIRINC), which today is one of the leading providers of international staffing data, and Technical Education Research Centers, Inc. (TERC), which recently celebrated 50 years as a leading innovator in STEM education.
By the late 1970s, Nelson’s interests turned to real estate. He began to envision a new kind of workplace that would better integrate work and personal life. The City of Waltham, famous for its history of innovation, was a fitting place, and it was there along Route 128 that he founded The Nelson Companies and developed The Prospect Hill Executive Office Park.
Prospect Hill Executive Office Park featured fitness facilities, exercise trails, a luxury hotel and restaurant, and one of the first-in-the-nation, on-site, full-day kindergarten and child care centers operated by Nelson’s wife Eleanor, an early childhood educator. Prospect Hill was also the first office park in the country to offer its tenants a high speed fiber optic connection using NEARnet, a precursor to the internet. Innovations like this convinced companies like Microsoft, Oracle and Polaroid to choose Prospect Hill for their regional headquarters, enhancing the reputation of Waltham’s Route 128 technology corridor.
As a dedicated corporate citizen, Nelson founded or co-founded many non-profits including the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, Inc., Waltham Tourism Council, Inc., and Historic Waltham, Inc., which evidence Nelson’s immense contribution to preserving the history of Waltham. Nelson also founded or co-founded the American Innovation Institute, the Boston Computer Foundation, Inc., Charles River Public Internet Center, and the 128 Business Council, and lent support to other greater Waltham area non-profits including More Than Words, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, the Waltham Boys & Girls Club, WATCH, CDC, the Waltham Land Trust and Potter Place.